A Hypocrite’s Guide to Not Wasting Time

If time is money, then I have wasted a lot of money.  credits to David Michalczuk on Flickr
If time is money, then I have wasted a lot of money. credits to David Michalczuk on Flickr

If you’re reading this, you honestly probably have better things to do that would be more productive, but you’re already more than halfway through this sentence so too late.

Disclaimer: I am probably the most unqualified person to be giving tips on how not to waste time.  Like this would be the equivalent of a criminal telling you how not to break the law.  But if you think about it, most criminals probably have a reasonably thorough understanding of the law, they just choose to break it.  Similarly, I have a pretty solid grasp on the concept of time management, I just choose to use it very little.

So here’s a list of a bunch of things you should not do if you want to use your time wisely.  (Incidentally, it’s pretty much a list of things I’ve done this weekend.)

Don’t think that you have time to finish something later.  You don’t.  And even if you did, you know that you’re not gonna do it until the very last possible second so you might as well get it out of the way now.  Plus, it leaves room for error.  And believe me, I need a lot of room.

Don’t sleep so late.  You’re gonna wake up past the time when normal people eat breakfast, you’re gonna eat lunch at the wrong hour, and then you’re gonna wanna take it easy for the next couple hours because I mean, come on, you just woke up, and boom it’s 8 o’clock and it’s dark outside and you’re just gonna spend the rest of the night thinking about how your life is a mess rather than get anything done.

Don’t forget to prioritize.  If something’s due online or requires the computer, do that first. Because it’s easy to finish worksheets in the car, but hard to type up an essay.  Getting ahead on other stuff (like sleep) may feel good at the time, but it’s not going to help you when you realize in the middle of second period that you forgot to do your history homework.

Don’t start a new TV series.  This one’s mostly for me.  I DON’T CARE HOW GOOD IT IS JUST DON’T DO IT.

Until next episode,

Mad Hatter


Motivation, Where are You?

Photo ©2010 by Andrew Blight [C.C.-by-2.0]
Photo ©2010 by Andrew Blight [C.C.-by-2.0]
It’s funny when I think back to the places and time where most of my writing or more memorable thoughts appear. Almost always, I get the greatest ideas when I’m walking to school, doing the dishes, or in the shower. The ideas never come to me when I’m doing anything else. I would say that it’s just exclusive to those three activities. Some of my friends tell me that they often feel super motivated to change their life, to study more, live more right when they’re all tucked in and ready to sleep. I experience it to but for some reason, it also occurs when I’m walking home. During my last class, I’ll be super motivated and tell myself I’ll do my homework right when I get home and I’ll try to finish most of it so that I’ll still have time to lounge around and sleep early. Theoretically, it should work right? Considering that I only have about 30-40 math problems (1.5 hours), a science project that I finish slowly (20 min), a Spanish worksheet (10 min), and a few chapters of my English book (20 min), I could finish all the easy homework (ones that take less than 30 minutes to finish so everything except math) in about an hour and take a little nap because after I get home from school, I still have about 9-10 hours before midnight. Bbbbuuuuuutttttt wait a second, in theory it works but we all know how that turns out in real life.  Continue reading

Paper vs. Digital

Photo ©2006 by John Ward [C.C.-by-2.0]This weekend, my friends and I went to Barnes and Noble, well more like I dragged them to Barnes and Noble. I wanted to see if they had Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul and they did! Because we there so early (about half an hour after Barnes and Noble had opened) the whole place was empty and it was easy finding a seat. Since the most of the other shops at the mall were only opened at 11pm, we had about an hour and a half to spare and I convinced my friends to stay in Barnes and Noble until 11pm. They agreed.

I picked up the book and finished it within half an hour and then I went browsing for other books. The moment I picked up a book, it was such a different feeling. I had been reading books from a screen for a while so actually holding a brand new book made of paper felt like I was in another world. The book I had in my hands was Miss Peregrine’s House for Peculiar Children. My friend had recommended it to me a few months ago and I wanted to read it ever since I read the synopsis. The pages were smooth and thick. This was the kind of book I would take with me on long airplane trips.

Going to the Journal section, my friends and I were mesmerized with the journal display. We stood there for probably half an hour and I was trying to resist the temptation to buy a journal even though I already had one at home, which was only half filled. Then, I thought more about whether I should write in a journal at all. I used to think that I would write down my thoughts on a blog to be stored in the cloud or on my computer, but now I like the idea of documenting everything on paper instead.

I wish I could write both digitally and on paper but another part of me wants everything to be in the same place. For now, I think I’ll stick with writing on paper and reading digitally.

– Duchess

P.S. Check out more of John Ward’s work here!

A Questionable Week

credits to +Angst on Flickr
credits to +Angst on Flickr

This has been one of those weeks that feels like a bunch of stuff is happening while nothing is really happening at all.  It’s weird.  So, I’m just gonna list all the stuff that has mildly to extremely interested me this week.  Insert awkward transition here.

SBAC Testing

If you’re a junior in high school in the United States, you might have had to wake up on Wednesday and Thursday to face two hours of this fancy new Common Core testing.  It supposed to be some sort of critical thinking alternative to normal standardized testing, probably because there can be -gasp- more than one right answer. And I feel like I should applaud the government for their efforts or something, but I’m just gonna say that I really hate taking tests on computers. Like, I don’t like reading off a computer screen or trying to highlight things by clicking the options menu or pressing buttons on their insanely small calculator. Most of my discomfort is probably just due to the fact that I’m extremely irritable in the morning, but I do prefer old-fashioned test booklets, where I can crease the pages and underline as I please. But that’s just me.

Applying for Everything Under the Sun

This school year is coming to a close, so that means preparations have already started for next year. I understand the necessity of this and all, but I really wouldn’t mind a break every now and then. Like can’t I have time to situate myself before I even begin to think about whatever ensuing madness is going to rear its head next year? I guess not.
Here’s what’s already been determined about next school year (which, weirdly enough is still this year, but let’s try not to think any more about the passage of time than we need to.) I heard back from the UCI Cancer Research Program that I applied for and they “regret to inform me” that I did not make it in, through they “strongly encourage” that I reapply next year.  I was talking about it with some of my other friends who didn’t make it in, and we were all disappointed, but not as disappointed as we’d thought we would be.  Maybe it just hasn’t sunk in yet; that’s always a possibility.  Or maybe it was a different kind of disappointment.  Right after I read the rejection email, I said to my friend who asked me how I felt, “I don’t feel it in my head, I feel it in my stomach, if that makes any sense.”  I think it does, at least to me.
On a happier note, I did get accepted into Link Crew, which I am especially excited about.  Link Crew is this program that takes place about a week before school starts, where all the incoming freshmen are herded into an auditorium and then sent in small groups to their Link Crew leaders, upperclassmen who are supposed to explain to the freshmen what they can expect from high school.  I’m really looking forward to this because I have this unexplainable love for underclassmen.  I think they’re afraid, but unafraid at the same time.  And some of them are just really funny.  Or maybe it’s the fact that they haven’t been corrupted yet.  Who knows.  Unfortunately, our band director is not pleased that such a large chunk of upperclassmen are participating in Link Crew.  He’s worried about how we’ll be missing days of band camp, and that’s understandable, though I really wish that he would be more supportive of us pursuing extracurriculars outside of band.  But don’t even get me started on that rant.
Apart from those two things, I’ve also applied to be a board member on Medical Society and a section leader in the band. And that’s another thing.  With every single student in high school being expected to overachieve, it’s really starting to make me question my own motivations.  Like I feel like it’s messed me up.  Before this, I could try out for things simply because I wanted to do them.  But now, there’s always a part of me wondering why I’m really doing this, who I’m really doing this for.  Is it something I want to experience or something I think I need to put on a college application.  All my decisions are tainted with this underlying doubt that I’m no longer doing things for myself.  And I hate that.  Almost as much as SBAC testing.

Rethinking all my life decisions,

Mad Hatter

P.S. I was also gonna talk about TV shows and Catcher in the Rye, but the tone just got increasingly serious, and I couldn’t shift it back.  Maybe next time.

School, Stress, and Not So Much Sleep

credits to David A Ellis on Flickr
credits to David A Ellis on Flickr
A community is more than just the collection of people within one’s vicinity. A community is made up of people who support you, who offer advice and encouragement in your every endeavor, even the ones that seem far-fetched or downright insane. For me, that sense of community is found at Fountain Valley High School. I’m lucky enough to attend a school that is home to a number of diverse interests and activities – from field hockey to marching band – yet still has a feeling of unity among students and staff alike. But despite how much I enjoy my school’s community, there are things I wish I could change.
Though it might not seem noticeable from a quick stroll through the halls, there is an immense amount of academic pressure looming over us as students. It becomes increasingly apparent as AP season nears and teachers increase both the density of content and workload assigned. On numerous occasions, a friend will complain to me about her lack of sleep while another will stress about a looming deadline. During lunch, we all swarm to our phones the moment we hear the SAT scores have been released, and we’ll huddle together in groups studying for a test next period. Often times, I’ll wonder to myself why we find this necessary, why we feel the need to panic and cram for an exam, why doing homework at five in the morning has become second nature. The obvious answer occurs to me. We’re all worried about getting into college because we’ve been taught from an early age that higher education is the only path to a bright future. But there’s something more than that. I think a lot of the time my peers and I feel like we’re defined by the letters on our report card, that we’re only as good as our GPA allows us to be. And this mentality is the thing I wish I could change.
If I was less shy and knew more people, I would let everyone know that they are creative, wonderful, significant human beings. I would tell them to stop worrying so much about the future because they are capable of amazing things right now. I would look them in the eye and tell them that they matter. And I know that I probably can’t divulge this information to strangers I see during passing period, but I want them to remember that these four years don’t define the rest of our lives. There’s really no easy solution to changing the way that we think, the way our brains are wired as students placed in an education system built on competition. But the best thing we can do is support each other. Study together the day before a test and go out for frozen yogurt the weekend after. The most important thing we can do as individuals is support someone else. Because that is the foundation of a community.

My Gateway Drug to Writing

Photo ©2009 by Manoj Vasanth [C.C.-by-2.0]
Photo ©2009 by Manoj Vasanth [C.C.-by-2.0]
How I actually fell in love with writing wasn’t much of a dramatic story. Actually, when I think back about it now, it seems funny how such a small thing could have such a big impact on me. Let me start from the beginning. My first language was Vietnamese and officially set foot on the USA January 2008 in the middle of fourth grade. As with any major changes, it took a while to get used to. I think I might have seen the books at a public library or I may have seen a friend reading it in class, but the next thing I know, my siblings and I were totally in love with Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The series revolved around Greg Heffley’s life in middle school, dealing with fitting in with the popular kids and impressing girls. It was around 2009 when my siblings and I discovered the series and we proceeded to check out all three books in the series at the public library and then would fight over who gets to read it first.

Soon after, Jeff Kinney came out with a “Do-It-Yourself Book”, which is basically a journal formatted like a Wimpy Kid book. I begged my mom to buy me one and she did! I was so excited and promised myself I would write in it every day. I did keep that promise, although it was close to writing four or five times a week. About half the book was dedicated to mini writing activities like writing about what it would be like if you were famous or make a signature for when you are famous. The later half of the book was just filled with lined pages for journaling. Initially, I didn’t intend to use the DIY Book as a journal but after filling out the first “fun” pages, I started writing about little things like what I ate for dinner or what games I had played that day. Before I realized it, the pages were filling up fast and I still liked journaling. After wearing out my DIY Book, I continued in a composition book and soon filled that out. It moved from me writing about seemingly insignificant events in my life to being a place where I could be alone with my thoughts. This continued until when I was in eighth grade. After starting high school, I still kept a journal where I wrote every so often but not as much as I would like to. I’ve been doing better though, as I’ve been writing in it about once or twice a week.

Anyway, Diary of a Wimpy Kid has been a gateway that opened me to the world of writing. At first, I had just started writing in it because I was bored, my brother hogging the TV, my sister too busy with schoolwork to play with me, and my parents too busy and tired from work. Before I was realizing it, writing became a part of my middle school life but when I got to high school, I stopped writing as much. A few months ago, I re-read a journal I wrote when I was in seventh grade, chuckling at the fond memories. I don’t know if this is the best way to describe it but just by reading what I wrote, I felt like I was reliving those moments. What I felt when wrote it I could still feel as I was reading the diary.

It was then that I decided that I was going to start writing again.

– Duchess

Check out more of Manoj Vasanth’s work here!

Exam Crunch Time. Just Breathe. You Can Do It.


Dear all stressing about things like AP exams, MCAT’s, the future, extracurricular, or some other real-world difficulties,

You can do it.  I may not know you.  But, believe you can if you set your mind to it.  But first and foremost, take care of your own body and mind.  Testing beings soon, don’t crash and don’t give up; the finish line is just a few bounds away– hang on a bit more.  Don’t let the negative thoughts overcome your mind; once frustration sets in, the negative thoughts will affect your performance and make everything harder.  Take a break, breathe, meditate, or try distracting yourself by setting a timer for 5-10 minutes and reading part of your favorite book, poem, or just something you find interesting.  For music-oriented people, pick up your instrument and play something you love until the timer signals the end of the break.  Or for those who love a good song, play an inspirational piece, something that will give you a temporary uplifting reprieve from studies; start jumping and pumping your fist in the air, get your blood flowing– it helps.  If time and your schedule permit, step away from screens, put your phone in your back pocket, grab ear buds, and go out for a walk or hang out with friends for an hour or so.  Seriously, just go outside, lay on your back, and count the clouds for a few minutes (while the day is still young, of course).

If you work yourself up to the point of breaking down, set aside all the signals in your head telling you, “I can’t make it.  There’s too much to do!  Not enough time!  I won’t have time to sleep today.”  They are negative, stressful, unhealthy.  Yet, don’t let go of that stress completely, use it to empower yourself.  Recognize that your day, week, month, or some time period will be literal hell and plan accordingly.  Here are a few tips that usually help:

1. Make check lists– Let’s be honest, once you finish something on the checklist, it feels soooo satisfying to scratch that thing off the list.  It’s also calming to have a list so you can see all the things you have to do without fear of forgetting something.

2. Schedule in breaks.  20 minutes of screen/homework/study time = 20 seconds of looking out the window.  1 hour of working total, allow yourself 2 minutes social media time and 8 minutes exercise or outdoors time.

3. Every time you feel like overwhelmed, take a break, pull out that checklist, and do something “easier.”  Just try working for two minutes, but try not to think about time.  You’ll be surprised how easy it is to accomplish things once you start.

4. If you really need to nap, make yourself a coffee (erm, not too strong, just something you’re used to or a wee bit more than that), chug it (don’t burn yourself), and set alarms for 15-20 minutes.  According to several sources, it takes about 15-30 minutes for caffeine to kick in (research it if skeptical).

5. Spend some time with friends or in social situations.  Even for introverts, interacting with people for a short while can do wonders for your sanity.  Of course, make sure it’s people who can make you laugh and relax.

6. Leave your phone in a different room.  Close that facebook tab.  Turn your music down low.  Ignoring these thing will help you focus, especially while studying.  Multitasking is scientifically proven to reduce cognitive function because the brain operates linearly.  Meaning that your brain will have to work harder to switch between topics, thus decreasing the speed it takes you to finish something.

7. Test out your delayed gratification.  Activities like watching animes, reading mangas, watching a television episode, playing a game, etc. are activities you know waste time and probably useless overall unless you are brain-dumping to a fellow fan.  But let’s be real here, when deadlines are near, cutting down on daily time-suckers, no matter how small, will save you a LOT of time.  Who knows, by the end of the deadline, you may have freed yourself of a time-sucking habit.  In the last week, I have been saving about 2 hours daily just by cutting down on mangas, television shows, facebook feed scrolling (I refuse to get a tumblr… my sleep will be even more non-existent), and gaming (yeah, I somehow stopped myself from gaming, woah).

8. Set times regularly.  I usually set my stopwatch at 5 minute intervals to remind myself of how long I’ve worked.  It also forces me to catch myself whenever I being getting sidetracked.  For example, if I being scrolling through my Facebook feed and my timer goes off, it bring me back to reality, reminds me that I wasted time I will never get back, and prevents me from wasting more time.

9. Stay hydrated and open a window.  Being hydrated helps you stay awake.  Opening a window, especially if it’s much colder outside also keeps you awake (and sometimes during breaks, catalyzes you to get your blood flowing from your butt to the rest of your body :P).

10. Believe in yourself.  If you’re feeling down, take a timed break and look up someone extraordinary.  Astronauts and scientists are great people to look into.  See their accomplishments in life and tell yourself, “If they can do it, I can too!”

I believe in you, you’ll make it through.


A/N: Photo taken by Flickr user Karunakar Rayker of a weasel.  Why a weasel?  Because according to Annie Dillard, we should “Live Like a Weasel.” Hang on. Persevere.  It’s going to be a long ride, but we can do it.

Peace of Mind

I’ve never really been one for beaches, at least the ones where I live, but that’s mostly a matter of wind.  The breeze down by the beach whips past me like I’m made of air and leaves any exposed skin feeling kind of sticky.  Strong wind always makes me feel really brave though; I like to stand, let my hair fly around my face, and imagine that I’m actually on a boat headed to an exciting novel adventure.  Note however, that’s not the impression of the beach that “Oceans”, by Puscifer gives off.

In one of my previous web-browsing escapades, I was lucky enough to chance upon this song, which has become my theme song for the week.  The slow tempo and hazy tone make “Oceans” so relaxing, I can almost hear the waves meeting the shore and then pulling back.  These are no mid-day, sunbathed waves fit for surfing.  They are the 5 o’clock tide, ebbing away as the sun fades.  Facing the sun are blunt, weathered rocks, split neatly into curvy shelves.  They’re the kind of rocks you just want to sit on and contemplate mind-boggling mysteries while watching the sun set.  What if the sun leaves before you find your answer?  It’s no biggie.  There’s no hurry.  It’s a moment that never leaves your head; it only goes on vacation until you decide to recall the memory.  Rather than a new beginning, “Oceans” feels like you’ve reached an understanding.  You’ve seen ocean: tempestuous and vengeful,  vibrant and beaming.  But you’ve never seen the ocean / not like this one.

No rocks or sunset here, but I’ll leave that to you to picture.

Social Norm-ing

The loner kid versus the popular group.  The girly-girl versus the tom-boy.  The wimp versus the “guy.”  The cool kids versus the awkward losers.

I categorized people that I never interacted with based on these labels as a kid and often subconsciously, I still do.  Anyone I ask attests to hearing their own friends categorize others with these labels and admits to stereotyping other individuals based on rumors and superficial appearances.  The truth is, everyone uses these labels on people they don’t truly know.

As a child, I was shy, but I wasn’t stupid.  I knew kids my age grouped everyone they knew into these categories.  In fact, even parents did.  I loved playing sports, running, thinking, but I hated barbies (they always smelled too strongly of plastics) and “girly” things like skirts and dresses.  By default, the parents categorized me as a “tom-boy” based on my love for physical sports and dislike for barbies and the things the popular girls liked (like Justin Bieber, barbies, dressy clothing, and High School Musical, which fear not, my friends will make me watch someday because I assumed the movie worse than it is– my mistake).  Whereas, the students at school typically viewed me as a mix of a quiet “awkward loner” in elementary because I hardly interacted with others.

I learned later on that one of the “popular” groups used to think and spread around that I was stupid.  A side anecdote: my mom spoke with some of the parents from the popular group on the day of my middle school graduation.  And, shocker, a few of them openly voiced their surprise when, contrary to what their children said, I was one of thirteen (out of 200+) who maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA in middle school and their child was not.  I, the one who was “not smart,” managed to get a 4.0??

Labels are harmful.  Those who didn’t give me a chance, who said I was things I wasn’t, didn’t get to see the caring side of me.  The side that values friends above all else.  The me that loves learning and strives to be the best I can be.  The me who loves reading about fantasies, mystery, science, and what it’s like to live in the wild.  The me that loves music.  The me that is more than the ill-conceived perceptions of me.  The real me.

Never wish to be just a “cool kid” who disregards others who have potential to be great life-long friends.  Don’t just strive to fit a few labels.  Branch out and make your own label.  Let others know who you truly are.  Never let them assume.  Because you are you.  You are amazing.  And you are more than the sum of society’s opinions.  Be you and thrive, prove those labels wrong, not conform to them.


A/N: Inspiration for this post comes from March Hare’s post this week: Simply Being You.  The song above comes from EchoSmith: Cool Kids.